Apple has officially announced the HomePod speaker today, which the company claims will reinvent music in homes like the iPod did for music on the go.
The new smart speaker features a seven-speaker array of tweeters. Additionally, there’s a four-inch upward-facing subwoofer and an Apple A8 chip. The speaker features “spatial awareness,” which allows it to automatically tune the sound to the space that the speaker is in. Setup is simple — simply hold an iPhone next to the HomePod, similar to setting up a pair of AirPods. (HomePod is compatible with the iPhone 5S and up.) You’ll also be able to use a pair of HomePods together in a single room for improved sound. HomePod is also compatible with Apple’s newly announced AirPlay 2 multi-room audio solution, so you’ll be able to use the speakers together with other HomePods or other AirPlay 2-compatible speakers around your house.
HomePod is obviously compatible with Apple Music, and can wirelessly access the full library of songs from Apple Music. There’s a six-microphone array, used to access Siri, which has been upgraded with even more capacity when it comes to specific music requests, like “Who’s playing drums on this track?” or “What was the top song on May 5th, 2016?” Apple says that the microphones are good enough to hear commands from far away, even with the music at full volume. The Siri waveform appears on top of the device when the assistant is activated, similar to the LED lights on an Amazon Echo, although the HomePod also features integrated touch controls as well.
Along with the music support, HomePod is designed to work as a home assistant, so you can use Siri for things like unit conversion, news, weather, traffic, sports, reminders, timers, and more. Apple’s own services tie in, too: you can send iMessages through HomePod, or control HomeKit devices. HomePod will also serve as a HomeKit hub to allow you to control smart home products away from your home, too.
Apple also highlighted the security of HomePod. While the device will always listen for a “Hey, Siri” prompt to activate, information won’t be sent to Apple’s servers until after that command is heard. And what information is sent is “encrypted and sent using an anonymous Siri identifier.”
The speaker hardware itself is a small cylinder covered in the mesh that brings to mind a wider, squatter Logitech UE Boom, and will be available in both white and space gray. HomePod will cost $349 when it ships in December in the US, UK, and Australia.